The time of indulgence is over and our well-fed bodies are on the lookout for a fast fix to lose weight and cleanse out the toxins accumulated during the Christmas excesses. So is the answer a detox diet and which of the myriad of claims should we believe?
What are toxins?
Toxins, or poisons accumulate in our bodies no matter how clean living we are- mainly as a result of environmental chemicals, eg fuel bi-products, cosmetics, diet and drugs. Our kidneys are amazing filtration units and remove most of the waste but it is our livers that have the leading role in terms of breaking down these toxins so they can be filtered out by the kidneys.
How does the liver detox?
There are two stages in the detox process; stage one where the toxins are neutralised (made harmless) and split into smaller particles; stage 2 where these smaller (now non-toxic) particles are attached to ‘transporter’ particles and can then be excreted successfully by the kidneys.
Where does diet come into this?
The role diet plays is that for the liver to effectively do its job it has to be kept topped up with a host of nutrients. There have been numerous studies to show that without an optimum level of these nutrients the liver cannot work at full power.
Nutrients required for stage 1:
B Vitamins found in green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, almonds fish and seafood
Vitamin C found in citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, berries and peppers
Vitamin E found in plant oils, almonds, kale
Selenium found in brazil nuts, fish and seafood
Zinc found in dark chocolate, garlic and sesame seeds
Nutrients required for stage 2:
Glutathione (found in garlic, onions, kale, cabbage)
Sulphur containing foods such as garlic, onions and green leafy vegetables
It can thus be argued that a detox diet should not be a limiting diet but one which is inclusive of the nutrients needed for the detox process to naturally occur. By eating these foods you are facilitating the best detox programme on the market (i.e. your liver and kidneys). To give them a helping hand, avoid sugar, alcohol and processed foods which all make the liver work overtime and drink plenty of water (not juice!) to help your kidneys with the filtering.
Specific detox agents:
All have limited evidence but one worthy of further research is Spirulina which has been shown to reduce heavy metal build up in human tissues. It is an algae crammed with protein, vitamins and minerals and there is no evidence to suggest any adverse effects from its consumption. Others of interest are dandelion extract and ginseng, also known for their heavy metal binding capacity but don’t be fooled into believing they will negate the over indulgence of Christmas!
Aim to include a rainbow of colours in the food you eat, not only will this optimise the nutrients in your diet but also adds to the visual appeal and enjoyment of your meals.
Avoid excess carbohydrate of all kinds which ultimately slows down the livers ability to remove toxins (fructose is a poison to the liver and will put certain functions on hold while it removes it).
Have a rest from alcohol, current advice is 2 alcohol days each week, but why not abstain for January?
Enjoy seasonal winter foods such as Kale (known for antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties) and Yorkshire forced rhubarb (high in vitamin K)
Wait until Spring to lose weight. We are biologically programmed to lay down fat in winter when food was historically in short supply and evidence shows they are least likely to work in January. After all the traumas the People of the Calder Valley have gone through in the last few weeks now is maybe not the time to start a diet?
For further advice Vicky Cuben, Dietician can be contacted through Physio & Therapies in Todmorden by phoning 01706 819464 and until Feb 13th she will be donating 10% of all her consultation fees to the flood relief fund.